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Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible Cultural Heritage is transmitted from generation to generation and is constantly retold by communities in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history. It provides people with a sense of identity and continuity,   and lays a foundation for the respecting of cultural diversity and human creativity.

These are traditions or living expressions which are passed down through generations in the form of oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, or knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.

By its very nature Intangible Cultural Heritage is a fluid and changing form of cultural heritage. A style of dance may change with each practitioner who teaches it to the next generation, as may a story or any practise handed down through the generations.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), besides maintaining a list of World Heritage Sites, also keeps a list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The move aims to raise awareness of the importance of intangible heritage at the local, national and international levels, as well as encouraging international cooperation and assistance.

Some notable activities that are considered intangible cultural heritage in Hunan are  listed as follows.

Pingjiang Shadow Puppetry  

There are various folk arts in Pingjiang County, among which the shadow play has been preserved well.

Shadow puppetry is a form of storytelling drama which uses flat articulated figures (puppets made out of hide or paper) to create the impression of moving humans under lamplight. It is a comprehensive art form, which requires the player to be skilled in playing percussion instruments, wind instruments, sing instruments, as well as singing and making puppets.

Hunan Kunqu Opera

Kunqu Opera is one of the oldest extant forms of Chinese opera. It is known as "the mother of all Chinese traditional operas" and plays an important place in the history of drama, literature and music. It is listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2001.Hunan Kunqu Opera is a particularly interesting branch of Kunqu Opera. After Kunqu Opera was brought to Hunan from the late 16th century to the early 17th century, performers in the province combined local culture and dialect to form a unique addition to Chinese opera.

Yuanling Dragon Boat Race

The traditional dragon boat race in Yuanling enjoys a long history, large scale and deep cultural background. Characterized by racing directly across the river, numerous boats and rowers, large amount of audience members and a long time span, the races here share certain common features with dragon races held in other places but with its own distinctiveness. It perfectly combines the local customs with sport games, creating a multi-networked, greatly varied and a unique Yuanling-centered Hunan dragon boat race.

Liling Under-glaze Colored Porcelain

Liling, an eastern Hunan county-level city, is bestowed with abundant porcelain clay, which makes it an ideal place for porcelain making. Liling under-glaze colored porcelain has enjoyed a long reputation at home and abroad for its colorful hue, graceful artistic style, exquisite handcraft, diversified varieties and designs.

Chisel Paper-cutsat Tahu

Chisel Paper-cuts are a folk handcraft inherited from Tahu Village of Luxi County, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. Its original use was to provide a model for Miao embroidery.The Chisel Paper-cut was given its name by Tahu Village. Chisel Paper-cut at Tahu is not cut with scissors, but chipped by graver. Employing knives in their hand, the artist can carve any complicated patterns, large or small, people or articles. Because the  Miao nationality does not have its own writing system, this kind of art functions as a most vivid history collection.